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Sky HDTV Could Make Your Cord-Cutting Decision Easy

Sky HDTV Could Make Your Cord-Cutting Decision Easy

The ranks of cord-cutters are growing, helped along by the fact that cable and satellite TV services are increasingly expensive and annoying. Many early cutters are satisfied to get all their TV content from the Web. However, if you still want broadcast TV, and you want both a wide variety of content choices and excellent quality, the options just keep getting better. One of the best is Mohu's Sky HDTV.

By Charles King
04/30/13 6:00 AM PT

The Sky HDTV Antenna is available for US$179.99 from Mohu.

It's hardly a surprise that cable and satellite television service providers are in trouble. Take decades of complacency, add in mostly awful customer service, mix liberally with resistance to change, and you have an industry heading toward self-inflicted extinction.

These aren't the only issues troubling cable and satellite companies, though. Low-cost content providers like Netflix -- which has done to Blockbuster and other video-rental chains what Amazon did to brick-and-mortar bookstores -- have been increasingly disruptive influences, up to and including producing their own branded programming.

Plus, online offerings both from individual broadcasters and from consolidators like Hulu and YouTube are rich and varied. So why should anyone willingly continue to fork over hard-earned cash for a service whose only "premium" is its monthly price?

Increasing numbers of consumers are not. For those thinking of cutting cable and satellite services, what are the best options to consider?

A Short Primer on Cutting the Cable

A caveat here: My own home has been cable-free for more than two decades. We initially dropped service for budgetary reasons -- then never bothered reinstating it. This was mainly due to an ongoing lack of interest -- a lassitude eloquenty expressed by Bruce Springsteen's classic "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)."

However, accessing TV without paid service has been challenging at times, starting in 2009 when the switchover to digital broadcasting began. Standalone digital tuners extended the lives of analog sets and VCRs but added a fussy layer of complexity to programming and recording.

While switching over to HDTV with integrated digital tuners simplified the viewing experience considerably, it killed off or hobbled traditional recording options. Plus, we live in a place where broadcast reception is mediocre, so integrated tuners initially offered only marginal improvements.

The solution? A rooftop digital antenna found with help from AntennaWeb -- a site cosponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association and the National Association of Broadcasters. That was definitely a step up, but it required initial and additional rooftop fiddling to ensure quality reception.

Mohu's Sky HDTV - Out of the Box

That's one reason I was intrigued by Mohu's new Sky HDTV (list price $189.00 but generally available for $169.00) which the company advertises as a "multidirectional antenna" -- meaning that no pointing or adjustments are necessary.

Mohu has been around for some time, focusing on a range of antennas designed for in-home use. The Sky HDTV is the company's first product designed for outdoor installations, as well as in an attic or crawl space.

In the box, you'll find the Sky HDTV antenna itself -- an H-shaped gray plastic unit about 20 inches long by 9 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep; a Mohu "Power Injector" signal amplifier; a USB-based power source; a mounting tube; brackets and hardware; and a 30-foot coaxial cable.

Installation requires a Phillips screwdriver, a drill, if you're mounting the unit on a wall or fascia board; and pliers (or wrench/socket driver). Installation took me about half an hour.

Testing/Programming

My goal was to compare the performance of the Sky antenna as nearly as possible to our old antenna, so I connected it to the existing coaxial cable and pointed the Sky unit in the same general direction as the existing antenna. Like most HDTVs, ours indicates signal strength with a two-color bar system similar to a cellphone. One to four yellow bars indicates poor to acceptable; one to four green bars indicates good to excellent.

Prior to installing the Sky antenna, we received broadcasts from 20 local stations with reception ranging from three yellow bars to four green bars -- but only a handful of stations fell into the latter excellent category. After connecting the basic Sky antenna to the set, reception was about the same as it had been -- but that was accomplished without any of the fine-tuning and pointing the previous antenna required as a matter of course.

However, when I added the Mohu Power Injector signal amplifier to the mix, the results were dramatically different. The set received broadcasts from an additional eight stations, and the reception quality for all 28 stations fell into the three-to-four green bar territory, a massive improvement in quality. Point, match and game to Mohu.

Final Analysis

Mohu's Sky HDTV has obviously enhanced our live TV viewing, but it also improved the quality of programs we record using a PC TV tuner -- a USB-based device we use in combination with a refurbed laptop. This combination, along with programs we stream from online sources, has eliminated any temptation we might feel to reconsider cable orsatellite service. Plus, it delivers a far better experience than the laptop- or tablet-based "Free TV" option touted by some.

Overall, Mohu's Sky HDTV antenna package qualifies as a great option for those hoping to break the yoke of paid cable or satellite TV. In the past, the majority of solutions required enough tinkering to make them mostly popular among hobbyists and gadget hounds. Affordable, easy to install and simple to use products like Mohu's Sky HDTV now make capturing local broadcasts a dream for consumers and a nightmare for cable and satellite TV service providers.


E-Commerce Times columnist Charles King is principal analyst for Pund-IT, an IT industry consultancy that emphasizes understanding technology and product evolution, and interpreting the effects these changes will have on business customers and the greater IT marketplace. Though Pund-IT provides consulting and other services to technology vendors, the opinions expressed in this commentary are King's alone.


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